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The BBC's Andrew Harding
"Zimbabwe's white farmers emerged from their emergency meeting trying hard to sound both united and optimistic"
 real 28k

Matt Crawford, member of Commercial Farmers Union
"We welcome any sort of mediators"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 16:16 GMT
Zimbabwe farmers call for talks
Farm occupation
Farm occupations are backed by the government
Zimbabwe's white farmers have called for the urgent resumption of negotiations with the government over the issue of land resettlement.

In many parts of the country, squatters backed by the government are continuing to occupy white-owned land in defiance of court rulings.

They emerged from a closed-door emergency meeting trying hard to sound both united and optimistic.

The president of the Commercial Farmers' Union, Tim Henwood, said he was hopeful that negotiations with the government would resume very soon.

"At the CFU special congress commercial farmers re-confirmed their absolute commitment to urgent dialogue with government without pre-conditions and to assisting in the successful, orderly implementation of land reforms," a statement said.

Our correspondent in Harare, Andrew Harding, says it is clear that the CFU leadership has been working furiously to avoid a split in the organisation.

A breakaway group had been calling for radical new steps to end the deadlock.

Their plans, including handing over up to two-thirds of all CFU land, were described as "treason" by some farmers.

Compromise

A compromise deal now seem to have been worked out - the details have not been revealed but the leader of the breakaway has been asked to facilitate talks between the CFU and the government.

Whether the government will actually agree to meet the CFU is not yet clear.

Many white farmers remain deeply sceptical but Zimbabwe's foreign minister, Stan Mudenge, said talks were a possibility.

Tim Henwood made it clear he believed his union had no choice but to keep pushing for a negotiated settlement.

One commentator described the meeting as a step in the right direction but not exactly a breakthrough.

Meanwhile, International Monetary Fund officials have ended a visit to Zimbabwe by expressing concern about the deepening economic crisis and stressed the importance of an orderly land reform process, but did not offer to resume aid.

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See also:

20 Mar 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe snubs Commonwealth
09 Mar 01 | Africa
Violence haunts white farmers
04 Jul 00 | Africa
Forced to flee Zimbabwe
10 Feb 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Zimbabwe's descent into violence
26 Oct 00 | Africa
Mugabe under pressure
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